Doing Nothing

Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples,  “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”

-Matthew 26:36

Certain aspects of this moment with Jesus and his disciples in Gethsemane during his time of agony, are relatable for many of us.  Any time we’re “up against the ropes” torn between doing what is right and running from, hiding, ignoring or denying doing the right thing, we are in our own little garden of agony.  Those times of wishing our life could be another way, but knowing we must do what is right even though it will come at a great cost to us –be it to a relationship with others or to our reputation, or our integrity—are our personal moments of agony.  Here in the garden, Jesus gives us a clear model to follow in how to pray our way through accepting our fate, facing our suffering and holding onto hope that somehow, when it’s all over and done with, we too, will find a “new life” and be “resurrected.”

But what has perplexed me for some time now are the words Jesus says to his disciples in Matthew’s gospel while he is suffering. “Sit here while I go over there and pray,” he tells them.  Not knowing what to do with these words, I’ve chosen for a long time to focus instead on Mark’s telling of this same event where Jesus says, “Sit here while I pray,” (Mark 14:32), which can sound a lot more like “Sit and pray with me,” and to my ear, at least, is much kinder.  But Matthew’s recalling of Jesus’s words makes it seem as though Jesus wants to be all alone and gives the disciples nothing to do—not even pray with him– while he prays.  In essence, it has, at times to me even sounded like, “You knuckleheads go over there and leave me alone.  Something important is happening here and I need it to be quiet.”  And while “over there” the disciples fall asleep, not once, not twice, but three times.  Each time Jesus wakes them and reprimands them for falling asleep.  In Mark’s account, where their job of praying can be implied, it makes sense for Jesus to be upset that they fall asleep.  But in Matthew’s account, why would Jesus care if they are awake or not if he sends them “over there”?

Then, yesterday, as I held Jesus’ words in my heart, pondering them, I read a reflection by Macrina Weiderkehr, a Benedictine monastic nun, where she talks about herself waking early in the morning to go and pray in the cafeteria of her monastery and spotting another sister near her each morning who was also praying.   Upon seeing the other sister day after day in prayer, Weiderkehr is moved to tears recalling something she’d read earlier about the importance of a younger person being mentored by an elder:

Mentoring takes place…when a young person sees in an older person a bright flame of life, which is a reminder of his or her own small flame.  When these two flames connect, the younger person gets his or her flame blessed, while the older person moves into deeper wisdom. (pp. 14-15)

Weiderkehr goes on to say she realized then that seeing another sister’s faithfulness to prayer each morning was blessing and strengthening her “own tired flame.”

Through her sharing of this experience, I had a new appreciation for Jesus’ words and actions towards his disciples in this garden scene in Matthew’s gospel.  Perhaps it was Jesus’ intention to not just model for the disciples (and us) what to do in times of agony and personal suffering, but in doing so, to give them (and us) a final blessing. Perhaps Jesus wanted the disciples awake and attentive to his prayer because in his time of suffering, it was the only thing he had left to give to bless their “old, tired flames” of faith.  Perhaps there really was nothing for the disciples to do but witness the scene as it unfolded, and by their witness, Jesus could be moved “into deeper wisdom.”

In light of this reflection, my eyes have now turned from seeing not just how we, like the disciples, often “fall asleep” to the suffering and agony around (and within) us, but how we are, at times, like Jesus and like Weiderkehr’s faithful sister in the cafeteria, modeling for others how to continue our relationship with God no matter what.  To know that sometimes we are the witness and sometimes—hard as it may be to believe– we are the mentor.

Isn’t it marvelous that the miracles of God are so great, my friends, that even in these small moments of seemingly “doing nothing”– save remaining faithful and prayerful to God– that we are both a blessing to others and blessed?

Reflect:  What person or persons has been the greatest strength and blessing to me and my “old, tired flame”of faith?  How might I thank or acknowledge that person today?  What actions and behaviors do I demonstrate that may be a source of strength for others without my even having been aware of them in the past?  How might I make room for more such actions or behaviors to “deepen the wisdom” of God in me?

Pray:  Dear God, thank you for the gift of faith-filled mentors in my life.  Thank you for Jesus’ triumphant example of faith unto death and new life.  Help me to never falter in following his example.  Forgive me when I falter anyway.  Show me how I mentor others through my faith in you.  Shine in and through me. Use me now and always for your greatest good.

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Birth Stories

 

 

And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.

– Luke 2:19, NAB

Every once in a while, I gaze upon my children in wonder.

I wonder at the people they are becoming.  Their kind and gentle ways.  Their warm and giving hearts.  Their open and receptive minds.  His strong, quiet leadership. Her grace and beauty and laughter.  His creative mind while he works.

And I wonder where did you come from?  How did you get here?

But, of course, I know.

I was there for every bit of it.

I was there when the idea of them began forming in my mind even when I was only a very small girl, playing dolls, playing house.  Mimicking and practicing the role of mother, long before I knew how a girl even became one.

I was there dreaming and wishing as a young woman about my Mr. Right.  Scribbling his name and mine together over and over again.  Trying them on for size.  Spending every free moment  with each other, but never getting our fill.  Waiting and hoping and dreaming until finally two became one.

I was there as the thread of my old life was picked up and sown into the fabric of a new one.   In this new life together, strengths and weaknesses could be measured and balanced.  Neither had to bear all the weight of any burden alone, and joys and blessings were multiplied because not only one felt it, but two.

I was there when this love for our life together could not contain itself.  When he and I gave of ourselves so much to each other that our love grew, right within me, into a life all its own.

I was there when that love spilled out of me and gazed right back at us with its own two eyes, not once, not twice but three times.  Him and him and her.   Lives of love themselves, born into love, and creating love anew.

All of this I know as I gaze at my three children, each one of them a miracle of our life and love—my husband’s and mine.

I was there for every bit of it, and still I look at them and wonder where did you come from?

While my children are my most profound and miraculous birth stories, they are not, however, my only birth stories.

In my life I have also given birth to other ideas and dreams that have manifested themselves in other ways:  faith formation programs and presentations, this blog, handmade gifts and goodies for family and friends just to name a few.  Simpler, sure, but nonetheless ideas of love birthed into being.

Even if only to a few people.

Even if only for a short time.

Yesterday, as I sat in church I listened as our deacon reminded us that Mary is not “just” the mother of Jesus.  She is the Mother of God.  She is The God-Bearer, fully human.

And, like the old song, I wondered did she know?  I like to think she didn’t know–at least not fully–what the miracle of her child meant for the world.  I like to think she only had a hunch sometimes, or caught a glimpse here and there, limited, in her own humanness because it makes her more relatable.  I like to think she doesn’t mind my doing so.

And I wondered how else I might be like her.  How we all might be.  And I thought about all of these things as I’ve told you.

And I’ve ended up with this:  Mary allowed God to enter into her and create in her so that she could bear God into the world for all to know Him and see Him anew.

As we start a new year, may we all take some time to gaze back upon the miracles in our lives–big and small–that God has created in us over the past year or years.   Like Mary, may we “keep all these things, reflecting on them” in our hearts, staying open to the possibility that God is still working in us creating life anew—even long after our child-bearing years– so that we may continue to bring Him forth to others.

Reflect:  What do I consider the biggest miracles in my life?  How/when have I been the face or hands of God to others?  What is the one big miracle growing within me right now?  How might that miracle be made manifest to others?

Pray:  God, thank you for the miracles in my life.  Thank you for making me part of your divine plan.  Help me see and celebrate the ways you’ve created things through me.  Help me stay open to your plans for me.  Take me.  Enter me.  Create in me.  Bear yourself to others through me.  I am yours.